Friday, November 28, 2014

Grand Rapids, the test case for fluoridation

In January of 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city to introduce fluoride to its water supply. Was this a net positive or a net negative? It depends on who you ask.

The American Dental Association has established that a .7 parts per million solution of fluoride is the optimal for the prevention of tooth decay, and many West Michigan dentists agree. There is no doubt that the often catastrophic tooth issues that plagued our grandparents are much rarer in American society now, and there is certainly a correlation between children with access to fluoridated water and lowered rates of tooth decay.

The Center for Disease Control considers the fluoridation of American water supplies to be a huge public health victory. About 70 percent of American municipal water is currently fluoridated.

There are a number of groups that exist to advocate for removing fluoridation from water as well, and it's useful to consider their arguments before coming to any conclusion.

One of the biggest arguments against water fluoridation is that essentially it's a rather uncontrolled science experiment on a captive population. By dosing whole communities with fluoride governments ensure access to this chemical, but do these populations know what is going into their body? What grade is the fluoride being added? Apparently it's not pharmaceutical grade fluoride.

Secondly, consuming fluoride isn't necessary to reduce cavities - this is why topical use in toothpaste serves teeth adequately. Taking in regular amounts of fluoride over time has largely unknown long-term health effects, and they are largely unknown because they are largely unstudied. But there does appear to be some evidence that fluoride exposure increases risk for infertility, arthritis, lowered I.Q., thyroid issues, bone problems, and bone cancer.

What's more, not everyone's exposure to fluoride is the same, since people drink different amounts of water and children, particularly babies fed on formula have higher fluoride intake. Furthermore, while poor children without access to other sources of water such as bottled water are more exposed to fluoride in the water, they still have higher rates of dental decay than other children. Dental problems have steadily decreased in American populations, but they've also decreased in European populations without access to fluoridated water.

There are many more arguments against fluoridation, and few people are aware of them since fluoride is viewed as a wonder chemical and actively advertised. Grand Rapidians are increasingly interested in exploring options for better and more natural food options and healthcare. They care about what they put into their bodies. It would be worthwhile for them to be aware of what is going into their bodies without permission as well - and to ask questions.

How will West Michigan's retailers fare this Black Friday?

Revenues made in the last six weeks of any fiscal year frequently make the difference between businesses finishing the year in the red as opposed to the black. So there is a lot of interest in Black Friday and the excitement shoppers show (as well as the money they spend) over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Yesterday many major retailers in West Michigan, including Macy’s and JCPenney, decided to open in the evening to take extra advantage of shoppers’ enthusiasm. Many other smaller stores located in the malls these stores anchor did not, although they were under some pressure from mall management to open as well. The Grand Traverse Mall threatened fines for stores that were not open during the required hours of 8 P.M. Thursday to 1 A.M. Friday.

As of this morning news outlets were reporting that crowds were smaller than last year when stores opened their doors at 5 A.M. Some speculated that this was because even more shopping venues were open even earlier this year so the competition for shoppers was fiercer. It’s possible that black shoppers boycotting Black Friday over the Ferguson grand jury outcome earlier this week may have had an impact as well. Nationwide, African-American shoppers have about $1 trillion in customer clout, some percentage of which is in Grand Rapids which is demographically about 21 percent black.

Of course, many retailers hope that shoppers will keep their money in the local economy by patronizing local businesses. In order to better facilitate this, Local First of Grand Rapids have put together a local treasure holiday box showcasing the products of area entrepreneurs. Local First estimates that dollars spent on local retailers are much more likely to stay within the community and will be filtered through other venues, creating and sustaining local jobs and strengthening bonds within the community and empowering smaller players. For those interested in stimulating the local economy, whether through buying apparel, craft beer, or auto partsSmall Business Saturday is tomorrow, November 29.

Currently there is no real consensus about whether it’s appropriate to open on Thanksgiving. Many people feel that the encroachment of commercialism on a national holiday is wrong. Others love the thrill of bargain hunting no matter when opportunity knocks. It remains to be seen what the impact of either group will be on Black Friday and the bottom line of our local economy in 2014.